ATHENS — Once again, there should be little drama about Georgia’s standing in regards to this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. Though uninspiring this past weekend against Kentucky, the Bulldogs came away with a 16-6 road win.
Ohio State, Michigan and TCU all played similar types of contests, with the latter two needing field goals in the final seconds to win.
But beyond the top four there is plenty of intrigue. And that will be worth watching, especially if the Bulldogs are able to maintain the No. 1 ranking come the final standings on Dec. 4. Below are some storylines to watch ahead of Tuesday night’s rankings, which will come out at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Does USC jump LSU?
The PAC-12 isn’t dead yet, with USC getting past UCLA this weekend. The Trojans now sit at 10-1 on the season and have punched their ticket to the PAC-12 championship game.
USC’s best win to date is over UCLA, which isn’t as impressive as LSU’s win over Alabama. But with the Trojans having one fewer loss — the only blemish being a 43-42 road loss to Utah — USC is poised to leapfrog LSU in the rankings and move into the No. 5 spot, which should be vacated after Tennessee lost against South Carolina.
Both USC and LSU in theory control their playoff chances. Should both teams win out, it would be hard to imagine a one-loss PAC-12 champ and the SEC champion being left out. Of course that requires USC to beat a surging Notre Dame as well as one of Oregon, Utah or Washington and LSU to take down Georgia in the SEC championship game. The odds may not be in either team’s favor to do that.
As it stands Georgia will definitively play LSU on Dec. 3. It might then see the Trojans next, in the event they keep winning.
What happens with Clemson?
Most wrote Clemson off following its loss to Notre Dame. It appears that Clemson did not write back though. The Tigers are coming off a 40-10 win over Miami and play a South Carolina team that just annihilated Tennessee.
The Tigers will also have a chance to add another marquee victory to their ledger by playing North Carolina in the ACC championship game. That game did lose some of its shine following North Carolina’s befuddling loss to Georgia Tech.
Clemson sat at No. 9 last week, behind a two-loss Alabama. Can Clemson climb over Alabama and get back into the College Football Playoff picture? Unlike USC or TCU, Clemson probably needs some help to get into the College Football Playoff as a one-loss conference champion.
But USC, LSU and TCU all have losable games ahead of them. Clemson meanwhile will be favored in games against South and North Carolina. Getting ahead of Alabama will be imperative though, with the Crimson Tide having just a game against Auburn left on the schedule.
What’s up with lingering Alabama?
Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, TCU, USC and LSU all control their playoff fates. If those teams win out, they’re in. Especially with Ohio State playing Michigan this week and Georgia facing LSU in the SEC championship game.
We’ve already covered Clemson’s looming prospects. Could Alabama make a push if things go sideways? Tennessee’s season seems done following the loss to South Carolina and the ACL injury suffered by Hendon Hooker.
Alabama’s best win to this point is against Ole Miss, a team that has dropped three of its last four games. The next best win is against either Texas or Mississippi State. The resume on paper isn’t great, with the Crimson Tide playing five one-score games.
But this is Alabama we are taking about here. It is the most talented team in the country per most talent metrics. And the losses to this point are against top-10 teams, both of which came on the road. The committee has shown it will give the Crimson Tide the benefit of the doubt.
We’ve outlined how easy it is to envision USC losing. Alabama is already ahead of Clemson in the rankings. TCU has filtered with disaster all season and loss to either Texas or Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game is a real possibility.
The biggest game Alabama will be watching would be Ohio State-Michigan. The Crimson Tide should want Ohio State to win, given the Wolverines’ poor non-conference slate. The potential chaos path for Alabama likely involves losses by USC, TCU, Michigan and LSU. It’s a longshot but Alabama’s ranking tonight should be very telling as to if it has any actual chance of making the College Football Playoff.
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